Hearing on Fisheries Partnership Agreements disappointed

Published on October 15, 2005

A recent EU Parliament hearing on Fisheries Partnership Agreement was disappointing from a sustainability perspective.

On September 14, the Fisheries Committee in the EU parliament held a discussion on EU Fisheries Partnership Agreements (FPAs). Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner, Joe Borg, spoke to the Members of the Committee about FPAs and the role of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), such as CCAMLR in the Antarctica and NASCO for salmon in the North Atlantic.

In his speech, Commissioner Borg stated that “All fisheries agreements are now drawn up, managed and implemented on the basis of principles of sustainability and conservation.” He continued by saying “that the European vessels operating under the FPAs act within a legal framework and are subject to control measures like any other vessels operating in European waters. Many NGOs and all our partner countries now recognise the fact that the EC’s agreements are the best guarantee against over-fishing. The existence of an agreement is the sole guarantee of a binding framework aiming at a sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources.”

It was unclear which NGOs the Commissioner were referring to. A fishery industry representative asked for a strengthening of FPAs, i.e. more funding.

In the following parliamentary discussion, Mr Heinz Kindermann, Member of the Socialist group, from Germany raised concerns about sustainable development when asking about coherence between fisheries policy and other Community policies. The Commissioner’s reply was that it is important to find a balance between fisheries, customs and trade policies. No reference to development and/or environmental policies was made, indicating that the Commission does not consider these areas important in the context of FPAs. Mr Kindermann also raised doubts of efficiency of control in third country waters. The Commission replied that FPAs provided for improved control measures in the affected countries [compared to a situation with no such agreements].

Further, Mr Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos, Member of the Socialist group, from Portugal asked about the socio-economic impacts of FPAs on third countries. The Commission response was that it felt that “the situation has improved”. Mrs Carmen Fraga Estévez, Member of the European People’s Party and the European Democrats group, Spain, was concerned over the licence fees the shipowners have to pay, which she said have sharply increased. The Commission replied that licence fees representing only 4 per cent of the landed value can still be considered reasonable. Mrs Rosa Miguélez Ramos, Member of the Socialist group, Spain, asked that more possibilities and efforts to transfer vessels to third countries should be made, which the Commission replied was against current rules.

Beatrice Gorez of the Coalition For Fair Fisheries Agreements (CFFA) commented that the debate was disappointing from a sustainability perspective. She noted that interesting questions were made about the fact that there are no catch limits under most FPAs and that the Commission refrained from answering those questions.